WWDC will (finally) bring us the xMac

sigamy

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Mar 7, 2003
1,299
2
NJ USA
While most sane folks are predicting the end of the Mac Pro, I have a gut feeling that Apple will surprise us with a redesigned desktop xMac.

Yes, the mythical mid-range tower / headless iMac will be announced next week.

Completely new case, 1/2 the size of Mac Pro.

"Half the size, double the power"

Standard Config:

Quad-Core Intel Xeons
Latest video card
One 512GB SSD
One 4TB 7200rpm HD
8GB RAM
Two open slots
Two thunderbolt
One FW800
Three USB 2.0 (maybe 3.0)
 

paulrbeers

macrumors 68040
Dec 17, 2009
3,960
120
I would love the "xMac" to be a modular design where you can add additional processing power by adding more "CPU Boxes". Maybe utilizing Xgrid (hence the "x" in xMac). Have one "main body" for expansion cards and ports (i.e. video, RAID, USB, Ethernet, etc) and then separate boxes for CPU and Memory that you "hook" to the "main body". I know, we are probably a long way away from that. Although actually at CES, there was a company showing off their cube servers that basically used a lot of that same idea (i.e. want more cpu power? buy more cubes!).
 
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Wardenski

macrumors 6502
Jan 22, 2012
464
4
No they won't. They will keep the Mac Pro and as per usual, overcharge for the base single CPU model.

The idea of modular components is just silly. I can imagine such a system in the Apple store window....a central box surrounded by other boxes with cables between each one...and maybe each one with a power cable, its nonsense.

The Mac Octopus....
 
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tdbmoss

macrumors 6502
Dec 4, 2011
277
352
I would love the "xMac" to be a modular design where you can add additional processing power by adding more "CPU Boxes". Maybe utilizing Xgrid (hence the "x" in xMac). Have one "main body" for expansion cards and ports (i.e. video, RAID, USB, Ethernet, etc) and then separate boxes for CPU and Memory that you "hook" to the "main body". I know, we are probably a long way away from that.
Something like the old Acorn RiscPC would be great, where it's one box that you can make larger or smaller depending how many upgrades you want to install - I still think that was one of the best case designs of all time!
 
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Neodym

macrumors 68000
Jul 5, 2002
1,965
538
a central box surrounded by other boxes with cables between each one...and maybe each one with a power cable, its nonsense.
Who says you need to have cables as interconnection? In the 1980's a german HiFi company already introduced something called "Direct Contact System", where the HiFi components (tuner, tape deck, amplifier, equalizer and turntable) would be connected via a dedicated plug system that needed no extra cables (except for power in and speaker out obviously).

Each component had male connectors on the top and right side and female connectors on the bottom and left side (except for the turntable iirc), so you could arrange the components the way you liked without having a cable mess on the back.

Some pictures.

Sure - it was proprietary, but that's not something unusual for Apple.

So they could indeed introduce a modular computer system without cluttering the place with interconnection cables. Just the opposite - it would give them a pretty unique selling point:

Need more power? Need more storage? Need more ports? Just buy another Cube (or whatever Apple would call the boxes - it surely wouldn't be real cubes), providing cable-free expansion at higher speeds than any external interface could offer!

If they do it right, they could even offer one box with (additional) "standard" interfaces (Firewire, eSata, USB 3 etc.) for those who don't want to be locked completely into the Apple ecosystem.

And with the boxes designed properly, economies of scale would allow for low costs due to high volume (whether that'd translate to low customer prices is another question, though).

Archived (outdated links):
Here are some pictures from their flyers:

http://wegavision.pytalhost.com/schneider83/schneider01.jpg
http://wegavision.pytalhost.com/schneider83/schneider03.jpg
http://wegavision.pytalhost.com/schneider83/schneider06.jpg
 
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Amethyst

macrumors 6502a
Aug 8, 2006
528
20
While most sane folks are predicting the end of the Mac Pro, I have a gut feeling that Apple will surprise us with a redesigned desktop xMac.

Yes, the mythical mid-range tower / headless iMac will be announced next week.

Completely new case, 1/2 the size of Mac Pro.

"Half the size, double the power"

Standard Config:

Quad-Core Intel Xeons
Latest video card
One 512GB SSD
One 4TB 7200rpm HD
8GB RAM
Two open slots
Two thunderbolt
One FW800
Three USB 2.0 (maybe 3.0)
with $3299 tag. T_T
 
Comment

paulrbeers

macrumors 68040
Dec 17, 2009
3,960
120
Who says you need to have cables as interconnection? In the 1980's a german HiFi company already introduced something called "Direct Contact System", where the HiFi components (tuner, tape deck, amplifier, equalizer and turntable) would be connected via a dedicated plug system that needed no extra cables (except for power in and speaker out obviously).

Each component had male connectors on the top and right side and female connectors on the bottom and left side (except for the turntable iirc), so you could arrange the components the way you liked without having a cable mess on the back.


And with the boxes designed properly, economies of scale would allow for low costs due to high volume (whether that'd translate to low customer prices is another question, though).
Exactly my thoughts. A bunch of cables interconnecting a bunch of random cubes wouldn't be very Apple. Think of it like a big set of legos which each cube (or block) having male and female ports that you just plug one on top of another. Yes, yes, I know this probably will never happen, but wouldn't it be cool? I am sure that it would require completely re-engineering the way chipsets in our computers work today, but holy crap would it be cool. We could all buy exactly what we need and not over or under buy simply because we went too cheap to begin with (and are now stuck with what we bought) or over buy because we want to future proof (instead drop $1000 later and add a second CPU).

Edit: On further thought, Apple could basically create each "cube" as a separate computer or node. Treat the hard drives as if they were on a SAN (to be shared with all of the CPU nodes). Still not sure how this would interact with the PCIE lanes or other ports, but one can dream right (maybe thunderbolt?)?
 
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Neodym

macrumors 68000
Jul 5, 2002
1,965
538
Edit: On further thought, Apple could basically create each "cube" as a separate computer or node. Treat the hard drives as if they were on a SAN (to be shared with all of the CPU nodes). Still not sure how this would interact with the PCIE lanes or other ports, but one can dream right (maybe thunderbolt?)?
Actually every computer is already split into various areas (like e.g. mass storage, central processing, I/O etc.). They just happen to sit in one common housing and often also on a common PCB. Sometimes, however, a unit has its own dedicated PCB, like e.g. the external ports or mass storage backplane. Quite common even in industrial computers.

Now if one would take the areas with little latency "awareness" (like e.g. external ports or mass storage) and put them into separate boxes and then take care that the various possible nodes share the available resources properly even when located in a different box, you would come closer to what we are fabulating about here.

PCIe would probably a bit tricky, but i could imagine an approach as you already sketched: Have 1-2 PCIe slots together with one local processor and some local Ram (to avoid latency and timing problems) in one common box and let this box act as individual node. Need more slots? Add a node! Need more Ram? Add a node! And so on...

The OS (and the user) would see the individual resources per box as one big pool being transparently presented to them by low-level routines.

So for example:

Box 1: Central coordination
Box 2: Mass storage
Box 3: Graphic unit ("graphic card")
Box 4: I/O (USB, Firewire, Ethernet etc. pp. - even Thunderbolt could be located here - if they can transfer data over Thunderbolt externally over a comparably long distance, they can do so internally as well)

Box 1 and 3 would probably have more powerful local processors (e.g. core i5/7 or even Xeon class), while box 2 and 4 would be fine with a lesser processor - core i3 or even ARM/A5.

Let the central hub delegate the work involved in copying data from e.g. the mass storage in box 2 to the Ram in box 3 to the local processor in either box 2 or 3 (whichever may have more resources/can provide more "crunch").

Perhaps one can even differentiate between time-critical data that has to be close to the graphic card in box 3 (thus needs to be in box 3 local ram) and non-critical data that can stay in local ram of box 2, thus freeing capacity on both box 3 ram and interconnect bandwidth.

In the meantime the "director" CPU in box 1 can communicate with the local processor in box 4 to process possible user inputs on USB, Firewire or other ports. Maybe a stream is coming in from box 4 (the user is recording from his video cam) and has to be routed to mass storage in box 2. Or mouse/keyboard events have to be processed.

As i wrote in some other post, Apple has quite some of the building blocks required for such an approach already in their portfolio (like Grand Central Dispatch, XSan etc.) - they just need to put the pieces together!
 
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VirtualRain

macrumors 603
Aug 1, 2008
6,304
114
Vancouver, BC
While most sane folks are predicting the end of the Mac Pro, I have a gut feeling that Apple will surprise us with a redesigned desktop xMac.

Yes, the mythical mid-range tower / headless iMac will be announced next week.

Completely new case, 1/2 the size of Mac Pro.

"Half the size, double the power"

Standard Config:

Quad-Core Intel Xeons
Latest video card
One 512GB SSD
One 4TB 7200rpm HD
8GB RAM
Two open slots
Two thunderbolt
One FW800
Three USB 2.0 (maybe 3.0)
Other than a smaller case with less expansion capabilities (which no one seems to be asking for), how is this any different from a Mac Pro?
 
Comment

paulrbeers

macrumors 68040
Dec 17, 2009
3,960
120
As i wrote in some other post, Apple has quite some of the building blocks required for such an approach already in their portfolio (like Grand Central Dispatch, XSan etc.) - they just need to put the pieces together!
I'm in! Totally agree. Unfortunately, the chances of this happening at this time.... I'm guessing about .0001%
 
Comment

Neodym

macrumors 68000
Jul 5, 2002
1,965
538
I'm in! Totally agree. Unfortunately, the chances of this happening at this time.... I'm guessing about .0001%
Next week we'll know how the new MP will look like. Not sure if Tim is the guy to try out something radically new, though. Perhaps the new machine will incorporate our ideas in some way, e.g. by offering a slot-in for a new MBP then acting as "box 1", making the MP a glorified docking station while plugged in... :D ;)
 
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sigamy

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Mar 7, 2003
1,299
2
NJ USA
Other than a smaller case with less expansion capabilities (which no one seems to be asking for), how is this any different from a Mac Pro?
Less expansion capabilities? Thunderbolt is all you need going forward...for now this new xMac will have two slots and two drive bays. This is the perfect machine for the new world Pros.
 
Comment

theSeb

macrumors 604
Aug 10, 2010
6,963
91
Poole, England
Who says you need to have cables as interconnection? In the 1980's a german HiFi company already introduced something called "Direct Contact System", where the HiFi components (tuner, tape deck, amplifier, equalizer and turntable) would be connected via a dedicated plug system that needed no extra cables (except for power in and speaker out obviously).

Each component had male connectors on the top and right side and female connectors on the bottom and left side (except for the turntable iirc), so you could arrange the components the way you liked without having a cable mess on the back.

Here are some pictures from their flyers:
http://wegavision.pytalhost.com/schneider83/schneider01.jpg
http://wegavision.pytalhost.com/schneider83/schneider03.jpg
http://wegavision.pytalhost.com/schneider83/schneider06.jpg

Sure - it was proprietary, but that's not something unusual for Apple.

So they could indeed introduce a modular computer system without cluttering the place with interconnection cables. Just the opposite - it would give them a pretty unique selling point:

Need more power? Need more storage? Need more ports? Just buy another Cube (or whatever Apple would call the boxes - it surely wouldn't be real cubes), providing cable-free expansion at higher speeds than any external interface could offer!

If they do it right, they could even offer one box with (additional) "standard" interfaces (Firewire, eSata, USB 3 etc.) for those who don't want to be locked completely into the Apple ecosystem.

And with the boxes designed properly, economies of scale would allow for low costs due to high volume (whether that'd translate to low customer prices is another question, though).
What a brilliant idea and the suggestion for a no cables implementation is really good too. If I were Apple, I would hire you.
 
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Neodym

macrumors 68000
Jul 5, 2002
1,965
538
What a brilliant idea and the suggestion for a no cables implementation is really good too. If I were Apple, I would hire you.
Thanks! Too bad you're not Apple, as by chance i'm currently looking for a new challenge anyway... :)
 
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thepawn

macrumors 6502
May 27, 2009
413
7
I need way more then 8GB ram for how I currently use my Mac Pro.
 
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leman

macrumors G4
Oct 14, 2008
10,395
4,908
I'd love a mid-tower like that, but why would you want Xeons in them? Regular IB CPU is more than good enough, and much more reasonably priced.
 
Comment

fox10078

macrumors 6502
Nov 6, 2009
467
86
I'd love a mid-tower like that, but why would you want Xeons in them? Regular IB CPU is more than good enough, and much more reasonably priced.
I was about to say the same thing. Why would a headless iMac have a xeon over an i7?
 
Comment

FluJunkie

macrumors 6502a
Jul 17, 2007
618
1
I would love the "xMac" to be a modular design where you can add additional processing power by adding more "CPU Boxes". Maybe utilizing Xgrid (hence the "x" in xMac). Have one "main body" for expansion cards and ports (i.e. video, RAID, USB, Ethernet, etc) and then separate boxes for CPU and Memory that you "hook" to the "main body". I know, we are probably a long way away from that. Although actually at CES, there was a company showing off their cube servers that basically used a lot of that same idea (i.e. want more cpu power? buy more cubes!).
I...really hope they don't do this.

I work with clusters. I think they're neat. The idea of my desktop being turned into one? Is faintly horrifying. Especially since it would be a move made by a single (still niche) manufacturer on a single niche line of theirs. No one is going to recode their stuff to dynamically handle a changing xMac array.

I do not understand the desire to turn the Mac Pro into a set of boxes. Workstations and clusters exist for different purposes, and do different things.
 
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Pressure

macrumors 601
May 30, 2006
4,022
279
Denmark
Yeah, just give me the current case with rearranged internals to cope with the different needs and give me a choice for ditching the 2 x 5.25" in favor of 4 x 2.5" and then I am pleased.

Of course, with the newest hardware available and Thunderbolt for video peripherals.

And 10.8 ... give me a new filesystem! HFS+ is long in the tooth.
 
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innominato5090

macrumors 6502
Sep 4, 2009
434
7
not going to happen: something like this would require mayor engineering costs. And apple would never invest heaps of fresh money on a desktop Mac (they consider it an almost-dead market segment)

Apple put its money where the business is: Mac Laptops, iOS devices.
 
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